Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel is again leading the pack as the 2013 season gets underway. Reuters

Sebastian Vettel grabbed the early edge on Fernando Alonso as the two battle it out for the drivers’ title in Brazil. Vettel, who carries a 13-point lead over his Ferrari rival, qualified fourth for the Grand Prix at Interlagos while Alonso will start three places further back in seventh.

It was a qualifying session dominated by McLaren as Lewis Hamilton took pole in his last race for the team before moving over to Mercedes, while teammate Jenson Button was just 0.055 seconds back in second.

“We haven’t had a one-two in a race for quite a long time [Canada 2010], so it would be a great positive for the team if we could achieve it tomorrow,” Hamilton said, according to “It would be my perfect farewell, in fact.”

Both title challengers surprisingly qualified below their teammates, with Mark Webber coming in fourth and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa recording the fifth fastest time. It could have been worse for Alonso, who qualified in eighth, but will start one place better off courtesy of a 10-place grid penalty handed out to Pastor Maldonado for missing a weight check for the third time this season.

Alonso knows that he has to finish on the podium to have any chance of preventing Vettel from securing his third successive championship. The Spaniard will claim the title if he wins and Vettel finishes below fourth, comes second with the German below seventh or finish third with Vettel lower than ninth.

“I think I did a good qualifying and, given how the last few races have gone, my chances of making it to the podium are still intact,” Alonso said. “That will be my objective because I know that, at least under normal circumstances, we are not in with a chance of fighting for the win.”

Vettel, who missed the chance to wrap up the title in the United States last weekend, admitted he was somewhat disappointed with his qualifying performance, but retained optimism for his chances of becoming the youngest three-time champion.

“I could have done a little bit more, so I’m keen to see the data when I get back and see where I could have improved,” Vettel revealed. “We’re in good shape and have been quick all weekend, so let’s see what we can do in the race—we will try to do our best.”

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg will begin one place ahead of Alonso in sixth, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta in the other Force India rounding out the top 10.

The championship permutations should already be enough to keep Formula one fans riveted, but throw in the possibility for heavy rain and Sunday could truly be a day to remember.

Where to watch: The Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix gets underway at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Speed. Detailed timing and data will be available on A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.